Thursday, 2 September 2010

You've got mail !

To: Friends and Family in the UK

From: A guy typing in a Canadian basement apartment

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing you to inform you that today I felt particularly homesick and oddly for no reason. I think the reality that this is going to be what 'I do' for the next four years somewhat caught up with me. I had a fantastic meeting today with my supervisor and another academic and we concluded a really exciting, yet challenging piece of work for me to sink my teeth into over the next 7 months or so. Academically, I am charged. I finally get to do some stuff that I find interesting, stimulating and something that I enjoy. Yet, today I felt sick, not because of my stupid canadian manflu, but mentally. This is not a holiday, its never felt like a holiday. A holiday I could handle. You dont seem to batter an eyelid, a wink of sleep or a spilt second of thought that you miss home when you go spend two weeks in disneyland. You know its temporary, you allow it to be temporary mentally. I mention my work because I know that right now, keeping busy is something that actually distracts me, something that makes me think about something else. Its these times, late at night or first thing in the morning when you are alone. You sit or lie with the reality that everything you have ever known is actually half way around the world and the commitment you have just made is a big one. A huge one. That I just stepped into.

I know all the cliches, I know that home is only a plane journey away, and that family will always be there come rain or shine (or snow). I also know that what I am doing now feels really right and I cant genuinely conceive that people do this as a job. They continually test the limit of knowledge, they develop it and they wake up knowing that today you will learn something interesting or something new that you didnt know yesterday and something that somehow puts another tiny tiny piece of this jigsaw together. From that piece somehow you feel satisfied in its acquisition and even more so by placing it and joining it to the bigger picture that you try and construct in your mind.

I just miss what is also really important to me. My friends and family. It takes many ups and downs along with enough plays to shame shakespeare to realise that what stood right in front of you was in fact the most important thing. For me, it took a move half way around the world to realise what is now so very far way, is in fact what I hold closest. I know I have only been away a week, but as I said, the mentality here is not a a holiday one. Its another home one. I have had lots of messages and chatted to a fair few people over the past week, and they have all been so nice. Some even made my cry and only two things make me cry in life. Girlfriends and my mother. Apparently one to add to that list, is sentimental comments from half way around the world.

What I have here is an amazing set up and I feel entirely privileged to be here. I am one of seven phd starters in my faculty. The only european phys ed and rec graduate starter. Amazing. I sit and think, wow, how many people in the world get this opportunity? How good of an opportunity is this? How free do I feel? I have been given something quite remarkable. The opportunity for me to finally combine work and play in a way I didnt think possible and just...thrive (and bloody love it, absolutely love it). In the words of the canadians, 'its kinda neat', my reply is yeh, but its entirely bittersweet.

I just miss home. Its just so different mentally, than being at Loughborough. Loughborough in relative terms was easy. I have never miss home more than I have this week. Its not just because my immediate family are awesome (but trust me it helps), its not just because I genuinely love where I live. The barn is beautiful. Its, just... I am so bloody far away. I feel foreign, in a foreign land. Oddly, I have never felt any more British than I have done in the past week. People at home used to mock me for my odd accent of a patchwork of southern English, American, Australian and south African (I have been asked on more than one occasion). My accent is vvveerrry much British. Blindly obviously so. In one way its kind of cool to really appreciate where you are from. The conversation at lunch today sort a similar line of reasoning, in that what makes a person remarkable is their ability to know where they come from, whilst being able to be open minded enough to embrace and accept other cultures as just 'the way we do things around here'. If you can accept that and accept that their are some things that are better and worse in other cultures and take something from that. If you can do that, you really have learnt something and it would have been all worth while.

I know I have only just got here, its only been a week 'happy weekieversay matty' (thanks fran), but I am unbelievably excited about Christmas. That will only build as christmas draws in. The oddest thing about this whole venture is that I know christmas this year will be the best christmas I have ever had. Unquestionably. I will love it. I will love, just doing nothing. The presents and the formalities (for once) I shall care little for (although nice of course). I shall just enjoy, sitting doing nothing, eating 'quality street' in the knowledge that I am home. I will go out in Cambridge, quiet inconsequentially and inconspicuously, grab a pint of my usual (gay man's drink) Fosters (tops) and be mocked at in almost certainly, excessively for how I am now the token Canadian Mountie and whether or not I have hugged a grizzly bear and whether or not it is now mandatory I cover my weetabix with maple syrup. Through the thick of bant (or as they say in lboro...panda..ha good times) and abuse, I will quietly sit and smile to myself knowing that actually...I love this. I love it. I love my life and those in it.

I just wanted to give you another side of how I feel occasionally. Bold action this may be and a great adventure full of pirates, dragons and damsels in distress but it comes at a price.

I miss you guys. I think about you everyday and I cant wait to see you again.

If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact me further. Either way I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Deepest and Kindest Regards,

Mathew Dowling

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